Gardens’ Past, Present and Future Development covered in Workshop

Many residents over the last few years have requested that the City Council hold workshops. So we were happy to see City Manager Ferris request one with the Council to discuss Growth Management. Often the Council meets individually with staff and then somehow vote unanimously on ordinances and issues with minimal deliberation. So it was refreshing to see what came close to an actual discussion on the future direction of Palm Beach Gardens.

October 23, 2014

Tony Doris, of the Palm Beach Post did an excellent job summarizing the meeting in these two articles: West growth is top city concern and Gardens works to control growth .

Anyone who is seriously considering running for the Council in the future or serving on the PZAB should save a copy of the excellent presentation by Natalie Crowley, Director of Planning and Zoning, as well as watching it on Youtube.   An understanding of the history of growth in the City, the 1999 Forbearance Agreement (and related Ordinance) and its impact on development, as well as the outlook on future projects were all included in the presentation.

Discussion by the Council begins here.  Comments made by both Vice Mayor Jablin and Council Member Russo called attention to their personal long term service and impact on the development of the City, as well as their knowledge on the topic(s).

Discussion on the hot topic of western communities and Avenir begins here.

We strongly encourage that you watch the video of the discussion as well as the presentation so that you will have a better understanding of where your Council, individually and as a group, view the future of the City.  There is a considerable amount of change ahead of us and all of the projects need to be considered not just as single projects but in the context of the complete City.

Martino: Vote on the Term Limits Questions

On October 18th the local section of the Palm Beach Post contained a news article, “Council terms may be capped”. It highlighted the November 4th, Palm Beach Gardens ballot initiative for TERM LIMITS. I found the article to be informative, as well as, revealing. The information was appreciated and should help Gardens residents to better understand the Term Limit issue.

I compliment the citizen’s group that finally succeeded in bringing the term limit initiative to the ballot for Gardens residents to cast their vote, “YES” or “NO”.   As a long time Gardens resident I am resigned to the fact that it is time for term limits for our City Council representatives. So I will be casting a”YES” vote to both questions.

What I found revealing was the comments and quotes from the three long-time City Council members, 25-year veteran Joe Russo, 22-year member Eric Jablin, and 11-year officeholder David Levy. According to Russo and Levy it takes 5 to 6 years to learn the job. Levy laments, “I had no idea what a City Council member did … didn’t understand budgets, zoning, or impact fees.” Jablin says incumbents have been reelected because they are doing a good job. In more caustic comments Jablin says, “The people who are behind this have run against us and lost … they can’t beat the competition, so they want to eliminate it.”

To Mr. Russo and Mr. Levy I reply, if it takes a person 6 years to understand the basic responsibilities of the City Council that person should not be a candidate to begin with. Having witnessed the current City Council’s confusion during the recent 2015 budget meetings, it is my opinion, that after 25 years of incumbency the City Council still may not understand the processes of creating a City budget.

To Mr. Jablin I say, no one has said, and term limits certainly will not, eliminate the competition for votes. Term limits will simply make the competition for votes somewhat fairer for all contestants, and not just incumbents. Open for debate is the supposition that current incumbents have been re-elected because they have done a good job. Part of that debate is the very real possibility that the current incumbents have been re-elected not solely based on the good job hypothesis but due to block voting in certain sections of the City.

To the registered voters of Palm Beach Gardens I say, please search the ballot for the TERM LIMIT questions and vote, “YES” or “NO”.

City Workshop on Growth Management – Thursday October 23rd at 6pm

The City Council will be holding a workshop on Thursday, October 23rd at 6pm at City Hall.  This meeting was requested by City Manager Ferris and the Planning and Zoning Department a couple of months ago in order to have staff and the Council discuss density issues.

There will be a presentation on Growth Management followed by discussion between staff and the Council.  The agenda can be found here.  Note that it was stated when the meeting was scheduled that there will be no public comment as part of the workshop agenda.  Many regular council attendees have said they’d like to see more workshops – so we highly encourage you to attend!

Reminder:  Early voting begins Monday October 20th and continues until November 2nd.  There are two questions on the ballot regarding Term Limits for Palm Beach Gardens City Council.

Palm Beach Post Endorses Term Limits for Gardens Council

On Thursday October 9, the Palm Beach Post endorsed the Gardens term limits initiative which will appear on the fall ballot. You will find the two questions (term limits and making them apply to current council members) at the very end of the three page ballot when you vote.

Martino: There are at least four Thursdays in every month….

The elected members of the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens seem to be having difficulties with the issue of transparency in its governance. At least that’s my opinion after I have attended the last several Council meetings since the baseball stadium reared its ugly head late last year. The Mayor has mouthed transparency frequently sometimes with an air of frustration and sometimes a little caustically. Other Council members refer to the word as convenience presents itself but only one member with any conviction.

From my perspective, in some instances, transparency is misinterpreted, misunderstood, and simply not practiced as the law requires by the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens and its Administration. In these instances, the rights and interests of the residents of Palm Beach Gardens have been shunted aside but they deserve better. Perhaps, an attempt at understanding transparency would be appropriate and be of some value to anyone that is having difficulty with the word and how to affect its lawful application in government.

What is the definition of transparency? There are literal definitions for transparent, such as, transmitting light; able to be seen through with clarity: easily detected; seen through; obvious; readily understood; characterized by visibility or accessibility of information; and so on.

In my opinion, transparency as it should apply to the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens and all governmental entities, implies communication, openness, and accountability. Transparency in government is undisguised, understandable truth. It can be interpreted as the communication and/or sharing of information among interested parties free of deceit. A fundamental of transparency allows for all interested parties to see what and how actions are acted upon in a frank, straightforward, and open, but not secretive, manner. Openness is the opposite of secrecy. Openness is a philosophy that gives prominence to transparency by the availability of free and liberated access to knowledge, information, and decision making rather than hidden by opacity. Transparency is accountability for the protection of the necessary rights to knowledge, information, and decision making by all interested and affected parties which in the case of government would and should include the public.

If I may, as my opinion, I would like to apply some of what is discussed in the foregoing paragraph, in a political sense, to government…

1. When a government’s meetings are open to the public and its laws and decisions are communicated in open discussion with the public in attendance, then transparency is present and there is less opportunity for public officials, elected or appointed, to abuse the system. When government decisions are made in the light of darkness and communicated in secret behind closed doors without the public in attendance, representative democracy suffers, the will of the people may be abrogated, and transparency is absent.
2. Transparency is open government principled around the dogma that the public has a right to access the records, information, and proceedings of the governing body, thus, allowing for effective public oversight. Openness in government relates the concept that citizens should have the right to information held by government, and should have the right to see the operations and activities of government at work.
3. Reliable information is essential for accountability, thus, freedom of access to information is a paramount public necessitate. In politics, transparency is used as a means of holding public officials accountable, so, information is needed. Political accountability is the answerability of the government, its politicians, and its bureaucrats, to the public. The right and the means to examine the process of political decision making by the public is the essence of transparency.

As an example of my opinion, as to recent instances regarding the failure of the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens to understand and foster transparency, I offer the following…

  • A failure of the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens and its Administration is the handling of the recent baseball stadium fiasco. It was certainly an issue that the City Manager was very familiar with as he hired a public relations firm to the tune of $60,000 to sell the idea. After eighteen months of rumors, presentations, and news reports of the baseball stadium proposal floating around the Mayor and City Council surely knew about it. Yet the City Council denied any knowledge of the proposal’s reality, refusing even to acknowledge its location as their choice.
  • The recent 2015 September budget meetings exhibited many transparency issues. For example, missing from the meetings were the department heads explanations of their individual budget requests. Apparently, each Councilperson met with the department heads in private. A Council member held up the voluminous budget binder and informed the public of numerous questions the member had for the various City departments all of which were answered in private without benefit of public’s right to hear this discourse.

However, from my perspective, the most egregious transparency neglect of the Palm Beach Gardens City Council is their lack of presence in the Council Chambers for meetings with the public. One scheduled meeting per month on a Thursday evening is tantamount to a failure of responsibility and trust. One scheduled meeting per month simply is not sufficient and …

  • It does not foster communication, openness, and accountability 
  • It is not sufficient for the protection of the rights and interests of the residents of Palm Beach Gardens
  • It does not avail the public of its right to see the entirety of operations and activities of government at work
  • It debilitates the residents’ right to information held by government
  • It prevents the public’s right to observe the political decision making process to its fullest extent in the light of the Council Chambers and not the darkness of the Administration offices

The City Council’s deprivation of the residents from important public information by the lack of interface with the public on a basis of sufficient frequency is a glaring example of the misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and simple non-practice of transparency. My suggested remedy is simple, schedule more meetings with the public in the Council Chambers. Workshop meetings between first and second reading of advertised ordinances and resolutions, is a practice of the past that should be reinstituted. There are at least four Thursdays in every month, not just one.

New Auditing Firm and Gas Station Signage Alternative highlight a short meeting

Reminder: SAVE THE DATE – October 23rd at 6pm at City Hall – COUNCIL/PLANNING AND ZONING WORKSHOP TO DISCUSS DENSITY POLICY AND APPROACH. No public comment will be allowed at this workshop.

October 2, 2014

Early in the meeting, Purchasing and Contracts Director Km! Ra introduced the new External Auditing firm – Marcum LLC and their Audit Engagement Manager, Michael Futterman, gave a brief presentation describing the firm and its staff and services. Mayor Premuroso commented that it is good to change firms every so often (eg 5 years) to have a fresh look at the City’s books.

City Manager Ferris gave an update on field closures due to the extraordinarily rainy September and outlined a preliminary schedule to address field drainage improvements over the next several months.

During Comments from the Public – Carolyn Chaplik described dangerous conditions arising from a new stoplight put in by the County on Hood Rd between Alt A1A and Military Trail for the Publix shopping center. Council member Tinsley agreed and the council was unanimous in agreeing that the County needs to be contacted since the light doesn’t meet the County’s criteria. Another resident, Douglas Grant, spoke of noise issues in his neighborhood and the impression he had that by contacting Code Enforcement to complain, code issues were found with his property while the issue(s) of his complaint remained unaddressed. He cited a previous similar experience several years ago. The final comments were made by Jean Whibey, thanking the council for honoring her and for the City’s support for Palm Beach State College. Ms. Whibey is Provost of PBSC and also President of the PGA Corridor Association.

All Ordinances and Resolutions were passed unanimously.

Natalie Crowley, Director of Planning and Zoning, described her meeting with Gardens’ gas station owners regarding the County’s ordinance requiring signage that owners and the City believe will be too confusing and too expensive to implement. She presented contrasting mockups of what the County would require versus the alternative and all were in agreement that the alternative was the way to go. The next step will be for the City to pass an ordinance sometime early in 2015 with it’s own signage requirements which will supercede the County’s.

Finally – Ms. Tinsley moved that the Council tell the County that they disagree with any proposal to move the County to the South Florida Regional Planning Council from its current membership in Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. A letter will be sent by the Mayor to the County Commission before next Tuesday’s (10/7) workshop on the subject. The move, in part, is being considered as a cost savings issue however none on the City Council felt that Palm Beach County should be emulating or strive to become another Miami/Dade or Broward County and that our issues more closely match the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. The item is Agenda Item 4A1 on the BCC Agenda on Tuesday and the details can be found here.